Cuba- what’s all the fuss about?
History on Cuba – What’s going on?
Cuba is a country that in many ways, especially in appearance, is held in the past. Due to its communist government, its lack of international trade and previous strained relationship with the USA, Cuba is a country that severely lacks in modern facilities. Although, always generally a popular tourist attraction for its rum, cigars and salsa and Cuban authenticity it is of late that Cuba has had reached a certain boom within the travel industry. More people want to visit since Cuba and the USA ‘patched things up’ back in 2015, allowing US residents to visit. As Cuba is technically part of North America, even though referred to as being part of Latin America, it is many peoples belief that Cuba is finally becoming under the USA’s grasp and future influence will taint what exists there today. Travellers want the real Cuba and are acting quick before things inevitably begin to change.
Think of how you imagine the 1950’s to be like in America. What’s the first that comes to mind? Cars. Cuba has had the same styled cards since pre-revolution times (or at least the shell of them) because of the cease on goods embargo, there hasn’t been an evolution of change in this country. If you like a good old Chevrolet, then Cuba is the place to see them, still in their authentic condition. And its not just little pockets of Cuba these cars exists, no, its everywhere. They make Cuba a real photogenic place; a simple shot of a car represents Cuba quite nicely!
The Money Situation
Cuba is like going back in time, and although that provides a lot of romance and sentimentalism it does cause one or two problems. The Cuban way is the relaxed way. Queues are long for everything and there isn’t huge urgency to get things done quickly. ATM’s are scarce and although in some major tourist destinations, they don’t work for all. Heading into the bank can take a while, make sure you take I.D and the correct currency if you want to change anything or use your card. Same thing goes for ‘Case de Cambios’, which are currency exchange shops. Because of more and more tourists visiting every year, and since 2015 the Americans are now allowed to visit, CUC is the wider used currency for travellers, which is tied to the US Dollar (practically 1US is 1CUC). This makes things more expensive, but you can still find the bargain food shops and beer isn’t more than 2USD.
Cuban food, such as ‘Ropa Vieja’ consists of shredded beef in sauce, brown rice with black beans and normally a side of Cuban potato chops is quite popular and tasty. A lot of the food in general is this sort of combination, so forget the Chicken Parma’s for now. Pizza and Italian food is common in some areas in restro’s as well as ham and cheese sandwiches.
You can purchase 1 hour WIFI in selective areas, such as parks, street areas and blocks for 2CUC per hour (2USD) – Many people take digital detox’s here but for some travel writers there is no such thing! Queues can be long at local internet centres called ETESCA.
Things to See and Do
Old Town (Havana Vieja)
If your impressions of Havana and Cuba were for smoking Cohiba cigars and sipping the best mojitos in the world, you’ll find that in the old town. Head over to the internationally known ‘La Bodeguita del Medio’ with Salsa dancing and Cuban bands performers. If that’s not enough wander up and down Obispo Street for a little more travel friendly shops and bars. Some buildings have been restored due to the designation of UNESCO. You’ll find salsa dancers on the streets and in around the main square plazas. Havana is for roaming, so enjoy!
The Museum of Revolution
Still in the Old Town of Havana, its 8 CUC to enter the ‘Museo of Revolution’ which once housed President Batista and was known as the Presidential Palace before the revolution. Since then it’s became the Museum of Revolution and has many war exhibits including the Cuban Revolution and War of Independence against Spain. It’s interesting and a lot to take in so make sure your Spanish is good!
The tallest building in Havana that you can basically always see is around 300ft height and during the 1959 Cuban Revolution it was the seat for government. It is an almost like for like version of the Washington Capitol building in the US. Admire from the outside and in, this building took little over 3 years to build back in 1926 for a cost of $17Million USD. Impressive and worth a visit, you can check with Infotur, the Cuban travel agency for updated prices. Last time we checked in this year, the place is getting restored so as of now it’s only the outside you can enjoy.
The Marecon and Seawall
Have a long walk in parallel with the seawall as the refreshing sea breeze cools you from the furiously hot Havana heat. At night, sit by the monument to the battleship Maine, drink a street mojito from the opposite vendors. The Marecon provides awesome views of the bay so stroll and enjoy!
Cigars and Drinks
We can name all the historical monuments there is for Havana but there are many so we’d like to think we could be a little loose too. Cuban cigars are the best in the world and often a novelty for travellers. Make sure you get them from licenced shops and Cohibas are the once you should try. Why not relax with some Havana club or an awesome Mojito in a bar somewhere, just like Hemmingway did in La Floridita?
If you’ve ever visited Vietnam in South East Asia, as you peer over the windy mountain roads, it maybe the first thing that you think of when visiting Vinales. It has that Halong Bay-Minh Binh-Sapa kind of feel to it, farmland and fields of crops in all your surroundings. Vinales is full of mogotes, which are typically steep but rounded shape with flat plants covering them. Normally they are either made of limestone, marble or dolomite It is thought to be Fidel Castro’s favourite place in Cuba and is declared a UNECESCO Heritage Site.
Dinosaur Paintings, Hikes and Caves
The mogotes and surrounding Vinales valley is so inviting, so definitely try taking a day hike up to a viewpoint or two. There are many hikes to choose from but interesting one to get to is past the Mirador viewpoint up to Aquatico. On the way you’ll notice a large painting on one of the rock walls, this is Mural de la Pre-historia. Made in 1964 by Fidel and his daughter, it shows dinosaurs that represent the finding of fossils many years ago. Continue on to Mirador viewpoint, stop for a breather and a photo and then head to the Aquatico viewpoint that takes around 1-2 hours. It’s hot and they are some steep walks but it’s relatively moderate. Behind the viewpoint and only 5 minutes away is a small cave area with a slightly larger bath-sized cold lagoon. Have a dip; it’ll feel so good!
This is a popular choice for travellers, and horses are generally well looked after in Vinales in the farm areas. Take a journey at around 4pm as it cools down; visit the natural cigar making farms as well as coffee making farms. Finish off in a lagoon lake; warm enough to jump straight in.
A Colonial Setting
Rows and rows of multi-coloured painting houses with cobbled stones litter the streets in Trinidad. If you’ve ever visited Cartagena in Colombia, you might be able to relate to what Trinidad looks like. Trinidad is most traveller’s favourite place because of its laid back, historic and spirited aura. A great example of this is visiting the Trinidad towers, fantastic for a view of the rest of the town. A lot of people get lost in Trinidad with their camera as so picturesque as it is.
Trinidad is known for its salsa especially at Casa de la Musica. An outside bar with steps, tables, chairs, a dance floor and a multiple bars, this is the best place to party for local, authentic Cuban music. Although, Trinidad is popular with tourists, some western style music is played. There are multiple microbars in and around this area but if you want to experience something special, head over to ‘Disco Ayala’. The entre fee is 5 CUC but the location is underground and housed in real natural cave! A unique bar experience especially for Cuba, this place is always filled with good energy and a pulsating atmosphere.
Playa Ancon, around 8km away from Trinidad centre is a strip of alluring white sand beach littered with palm trees besides a calm-velvet looking ocean. If you are looking to loosen up even more from the charms of Trinidad and can imagine a beach that the wind breezes just enough to make you feel at that perfect ease then there maybe no better spot in Cuba.